12 hours at sea
We received this report from the boat:
We hauled up the mainsail and set the Solent jib off Ventnor and then charged across our official starting line at nearly 20 knots. Now we've got till the early hours of Sunday morning to try to break Steve Fossett's 1994 record time in the 60ft trimaran, Lakota, for sailing around the British Isles of five days and 21 hours.
It may seem easy when you are sailing in a boat which is nearly twice as long as Lakota but none of us on board Orange believe that to be the case, especially given that our start day was governed more by sponsor commitments than the presence of an ideal weather pattern.
This is a tricky course with inevitable windward stretches and perhaps equally inevitable calm patches. It is no surprise that in recent months the celebrated French skipper Olivier de Kersauson has tried and failed twice on this course in his new 115ft tri, Geronimo. On one occasion he went clockwise as far as the northwest of Scotland where he ran out of breeze. On the other he went the opposite way, starting from the Lizard, but ran out of Lakota's time somewhere by the Isle of Wight.
Orange has started reasonably well on the leg from Ventnor to the Isles of Scilly, close-hauled on starboard and averaging over 14 knots of boatspeed in the first seven hours, almost two knots ahead of the Lakota average. The aim is to get as far west as we can before flipping over onto port as the wind swings round to the west, southwest and builds. This could give us a fast passage across the Irish Sea towards Cape Clear and then a power-reach up the west coast of Ireland.
Originally we planned to go anti-clockwise as Lakota did, but our router, the one and only Roger 'Clouds' Badham, was worried that we might end up beating into strong headwinds between Muckle Flugga, our most northerly rounding mark on the tip of the Shetlands, and St Kilda, the tiny island out in the Atlantic off the Orkneys, which forms our most northwesterly point.
Now we have the chance of a fast run between the two.
We've got a great team on board led by the legendary French yachtsman and curent Jules Verne Trophy holder, Bruno Peyron who is sharing the skipper's role with Britain's Neal McDonald. Peyron is already talking about his new, even bigger maxi which he plans to skipper in the second staging of The Race scheduled for 2004. This trip amounts to his swansong in this beast of a boat in which he recently set a new non-stop round-the-world record of 64 days.
It is surprising how lttle there is to do on a boat of this size. Compared to a monohull when sail trim is a constant obsession, on Orange we haven't tacked in 12 hours. The jib and the main were set before we crossed the startline and since then, the traveller has been adjusted twice. When you are sailing to apparent wind, sail trim is more or less irrelevant as each successive helmsman steers the boat around the wind.
We have settled into a three-watch system and there have been attempts at cooking with the prize for wrost effort going to McDonald who played a key role in producing a truly disgusting pasta, most of which went overboard straight out of the dog-bowls. All along our route we have passed, on parallel courses, a steady stream of Tall Ships which seem to be heading for Portsmouth. In the light to moderate winds, they make a spectacular sight under a full press of sail. The contrast with Orange, leaping with great lurches across the waves could hardly be more stark.